For this episode, I’m back, but our intrepid host Martin Wilsey was unable to attend so the Toastmaster extraordinaire David Keener to host us as we talk about how to find time between work, and home, and all the other things you have to do with life. Believe me, I barely even find the time to update this site, never mind write.
I hope you find the time to watch it and keep writing. I hope to see you next week!
Today I tendered my official resignation with the Naval Research Laboratory. I worked at the Laboratory for 18 years, under three Presidents and many Congresses. In that time, I pushed for at work EV Charging in the FAST Act, I started the NRL EV Group (link accessible within NRL), I sang with Polly and the Saccharides (no link available), and I even gave some Toastmasters speeches (NRL Link).
I very much enjoyed my time there and really am sad to go but I have been having so many problems paying for #CO2Fre and its maintenance that I have no choice but to accept a new job in the private sector. My only other solace—besides finally getting to write code again—is that I can finally use a part of my McGill degree that I’ve not been able to exercise beyond writing fiction.
Thus, it’s not so much an end, but a new beginning. And who knows what the future may bring! After all, I would like to return to Federal Service on day and accrue at least two more years to get my FERS to 1.1%. The only thing for sure is I’m a lot less available as a coder now.
From about 2020-03-23T14:30:00Z (10:30 am, Monday) to about 2020-03-23T23:30:00Z (7:30 pm, Monday), Google was redirecting all my email and either bouncing it or deleting it.
Let me repeat, google deleted or bounced my email for Nine Hours, as a part of the setup of my setup for a paid Google Apps account. The setup for these accounts are a bit weird. They require you to create a new google entity with your own company URL. Fortunately, I have multiple domains I own and maintain, including this one, TimeHorse.com.
I probably should have used my writing group domain, RestonWriters.org. After all, the whole reason I wanted to get a paid Google account is because Meetup was moving to Online-Only meetings, following the outbreak of SARS-COV-2, and I needed a tool that allowed for video conferencing.
Skype was a non-starter. For one thing, it’s great for person-to-person communications, but for group chats, it has this annoying habit of muting everyone except the current speaker and you have to wait until that speaker stops to get a word in edgewise. My understanding is WhatsApp has the same problem.
Meetup actually suggested using Google Hangouts or Zoom. I happen to like Zoom. I use it for my regular NPVIC Grassroots strategy meetings and for Toastmasters and it’s always worked great. Zoom does support up to a hundred participants, both free and Pro. The only problem is, each of those Zoom sessions are either limited to the free forty-minute block or are using an up-to-24-hour Zoom Pro Account. Since most of my Meetups are at least an hour, breaking meeting up into forty-minute chunks would be tedious. And, at $14.99 a month, the professional account is well out of my price range.
Just before the first week of Virtual meetings began, my writing colleagues and I, including Elizabeth Hayes, who runs The Hourlings, tested both free Zoom and Google Hangout. Despite being limited to ten people, we decided on Google Hangout and I mapped it to our official Virtual Meeting URL.
Ten people worked fine for Reston Writers and for the Saturday Morning Review. The Saturday Morning Review actually worked out quite well because Meetup, despite suggesting we move to a virtual platform, still won’t let you delete the venue from your event and mark it as virtual, which, when editing events can cause some confusion. But when the Library cancelled all our events, I just deleted them all from the Meetup Calendar, and recreated them with no Venue and just announced them as occurring in Cyberspace.
Stay with me folks, I’m getting to the email…
As Sunday approached, I new ten participants wouldn’t be enough. Google Hangout would be fine for Bewie Bevy of Brainy Books and Saturday Morning Review, and likely The Science Book Club, as they all usually have fewer than ten participants for each meeting. The Hourlings, on the other hand, often had twelve, and sometimes as many as sixteen!
I new Zoom was $14.99 a month, but I read that Google App accounts could up the number of participants to twenty-five. Unfortunately my 2TB Google Drive account didn’t qualify. I had to get a Google Apps account.
And that’s where my troubles began.
At first, I could only sign up for the $12 per month account, even though I’d read it could be had for $6. Since the setup has a fortnight trial period, I didn’t worry about the financial discrepancy. I set up the account with my business email address for TimeHorse, LLC. I associated it with with that email, it connected to my Gandi Registrar, and my account was ready to go. I created a Google Hangout and assigned it to the Virtual Meeting URL, hoping it would allow twenty-five. The plan was to use it with the Hourlings to verify that fact.
It failed! We still could only get ten people into the meetup despite it being a paid account.
Unfortunately, since Monday I’ve been on Weather and Safety Leave from work because my Telework agreement was revoked, but that’s a story for another day as this post is long as it is! However, it did allow me to speak to Google and they suggested I try Google Meet. Meet was included with all Google App paid accounts, and it would allow for up to a hundred people and could be as long as I needed. Also, I could downgrade to the $6 per month account and I would still be able to use it. I thus downgraded.
We tried it with Reston Writers Review and it worked wonderfully. We had up to twelve connections simultaneously! But I’m getting ahead of myself.
At around 10:30 am, that Monday, after chatting with Google, I was examining my Google Apps account more closely. It was telling me I had one last step I needed to complete: integrate me email with Gmail.
That’s when my troubles began. You see, what this innocuous, turn-key step says it does is it says it sets up GMail for your company. What it actually does is obliterate all the MX Records (email routing information) of your DNS (Internet routing information) Zone File (routing configuration file) on Gandi and replace it with MX Records that point to Google. The setup wizard doesn’t actually tell you this and I’m totally oblivious.
At current writing, I have 188 forwarded email addresses set up on Gandi with their MX Servers. One of those is my business email, the one Google took over and is my Google Apps login. That’s the email google set up as the official email address used in GMail. Once the GMail setup goes through and I send an email from the GMail interface to my personal email address on the timehorse.com domain.
It never arrives. All day long, I watch my email and, strangely, nothing arrives after 10:30 in the morning. I refresh and refresh, and it’s still nothing. Where have all my emails gone?
It’s not until I’m setting up for Reston Writers that I decide to contact Google about this. I’m crazy-busy setting up the Google Meet, opening up the pieces we’d be reviewing on my computer, and, simultaneously, chatting with Google, trying to figure out why I’m not receiving any email.
Eventually, Google Tech Support starts talking about MX Records and a chill runs down my spine. As you probably gathered by now, I am well versed in DNS records and Zone File manipulation. I even have a Python script which updates my DNS A Record when the IP Address for this server changes.
With trepidation, I logged into my Gandi account and saw the damage. Google had modified my Zone file and added a bunch of strange new MX Records pointing to Google. They had nuked all my Gandi Email forward since they’d redirected all email traffic to google. As google only had one account registered on the domain, timehorse.com, namely my business email address, every other email address I possessed was either being deleted or bounced by google!
Fortunately, Gandi’s Email Forwarding page provides a warning when the Zone file doesn’t point to their email server, listing the correct MX Record settings to use Gandi as the mail hosting server. I quickly commented out the Google MX Records and pasted in the Gandi MX Records around 7:30 pm, in the middle of my Reston Writers meeting.
Needless to say, I was miffed that I could not give my full attention to my writers during our weekly writing gettogether. But it’s good I finally did figure out the disastrous actions committed by Google after only nine hours, and not a day or more.
I may never know what was contained in those nine hours of lost emails. I suppose there is one blessing, though. I get too much email already and still have dozens of unread messages I’m desperately trying to catch up on. One Covidapolis, novel-length email after another from every business under the sun. STFU companies, you’re all doing the same thing and I don’t like reading the same message again, and again, and again! You have a plan, that’s all I need to know!
Maybe Google was doing me a favor?
In the end, I was able to solve the problem because I got skills and I’m available for hire!
Today I evaluated an absolutely wonderful fellow Toastmaster. Rick Halstead is no novice to Toastmasters, but today was his Ice Breaker. That’s because anyone in ToastMasters these days is now using the Pathways system to progress through their journey and Rick, though an old hand and excellent Toastmaster, had yet to start his Pathways journey. I was very honored to be his evaluator when he took this first step in a new direction.
I took an Uber to the meeting as I had leftover credits from Tesla and #CO2Fre needed an update, but I’ll write more about that tomorrow. It was close, but I arrived just on time. I was able to convey Rick’s wishes to make sure he didn’t embellish too much and advised him afterwards how you could use a little more embellishment to his advantage, including a summersault. But overall, Rick was very hard to evaluate as there was so little fault with his to all intents and purposes perfect speech. Spend most of my time in fact rattling off all the things he did right like dynamics and gestures and our shared love for New Zealand.
My friends Laura and Leigh-Ann were both stiff competition as wonderful evaluators today and I felt sure one of them would get the ribbon for best evaluation. But to my surprise…
I joined Toastmasters last year to both practice my public speaking and to lear to be a better performer when acting. I enjoyed answering Table Topics and being challenged to come up with a spontaneous speech—at least when I knew what the topic was—but when it came to my own Ice Breaker speech, I kept putting it off.
The thing is, I don’t like talking about myself. I love writing fiction and talking about Science but when it comes to my personal life, I get embarrassed and ashamed. Much of my personal story is really not for public consumption and is rather confounded with emotional difficulty and lack of self-worth. I do hope through Toastmasters, to overcome that, just as I have found Cosplay to help with my self-image, but that journey isn’t the subject of this post.
Instead, I want to talk about my Ice Breaker.
I decided to cover my digital self. As you can see from the side menu in the upper-right corner of my site, I have a lot of social networks accounts! Indeed, the currently 26 or so I have listed there are only a fraction of the dozen or so twitter accounts I have, the half-dozen Facebook pages I run, the three instagram accounts I control, the dozens of meetups I’m in with my two accounts, one professional, one personal. Or even the fact that I have a separate blog for Reston Writers and one for the Affordable Electric Car NOW!
Of course, seasoned ToastMasters will know that your Ice Breaker is actually 4–6 minutes, not 5–7, so my speech ran long. And I did tend to lose my place as I spoke, having had no time to memorize it word for word. Nonetheless, I did my best and delivered my speech and got some great advice from my friends and colleagues at the Loudoun ToastMasters, club 5154. My mentor Jonathan gave me some amazing and helpful advice and I am so thankful to all of my fellow Toastmasters!